- Travel and Places
HubMob Weekly Topic: Emerald Princess Cruising the Mediterranean – the holiday of a lifetime.
Emerald Princess Cruising the Mediterranean - the holiday of a lifetime.
I have been distinctly unproductive when this hub mob topic came up. I am not a salesman. I don't like salesmen. When I use the word salesman I use it in the generic sense in that I refer to Saleswomen or sales persons too just get the record straight, so I dislike males, females and others who sell equally with no discrimination or bias.
So when it comes to pimping a product, any product I am distinctly out of my league or comfort zone. After agonizing on this topic and consulting with other hubbers I decided that my recent cruise of the Mediterranean aboard the Emerald Princess was as a result of the purchase of a product.
The Product is a sea Cruise holiday.
Hurray now we over that bit of angst we acknowledge that we have bought a product. This is the sea cruise holiday product. How did we buy it? Well I guess we bought it as a result of an internet search using our trusty Google search. Now interestingly enough Google itself is a product, albeit a so-called "free" product. I by nature am a suspicious person. I know there is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything in this life is paid for in one form or another. Google exists by being he world's slickest selling machine. It sells advertising and "Ad-sense" ads which attach themselves to internet material and we subscribe to Google and get a Google account and adverts attach themselves to our internet copy. Any one who then clicks on our ad copy generates a tiny revenue slice to our account. Okay I have now finished with my Google for dummies diatribe, but I was merely pointing out that I could talk about another "product".
Not so painful was it?
We had to factor in various options before making our choice. Firstly, I had to attend a conference in Budapest so the end of the conference set the beginning date of the holiday give or take a day or two. Secondly we could fly to almost any port in Europe and likewise fly out from any port using the so-called "jaws" approach to our air tickets. This simply meant that our Airfare costs would not differ significantly from that of just flying to Budapest and back.
We then looked at various Cruises Cruise lines, ports of call, starting and ending destinations. We also wanted between 7 and 10 days on board so that determined the cruise length. As we were approaching winter in Europe we had to look at weather and weather relative to the ports of call. This meant that a Mediterranean cruise was the only choice for us. There were cruises up the Danube from Budapest but that mean we would have to travel north an the north gets colder sooner than the Mediterranean area.
We looked at various cruise liners nd their offerings and decided that we liked the timing and itinerary offered by the Princess line and more particularly the Emerald Princess which was only two years old and by all accounts a floating palace.
The cruise that we chose left from Barcelona, to Marseille, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Naples
Mykonos, Istanbul, Kusadasi, Athens, and ending in Venice.
As we both loved Venice we decided on that cruise and immediately added an extra days stay in Venice.
Choosing a Cabin.
This is pretty tricky because different cabins (or suites) cost different prices. The rule of thumb is higher up the boat the better, outside cabin, not inside. preferably with a view even a partially obscured view. You must remember that a cruise ship like the Emerald has fifteen stories all round and 16 up front and 20 at the rear or aft of the ship. We opted for he Eerald deck deck (11th floor) near the middle towards the front. In case you are worried there are 4 banks of elevators in groups of 6 so getting up and down (excepting on disembarkation day at the end of the cruise) is no real issue. For the fit there are plenty of wide staircases.
So now we have selected our cabin.
The cost for us was about USD 5000 each (check the website for current pricing).
All in Packages
If you are on a limitless budget you can add transfers from the airport to the ship and from the ship back to the airport and you can include an extension before or after the trip to an "approved" hotel. We had a limited budget and being familiar with Europe chose to use Taxi's from the airport (about USD 40) and choose our own hotels from the net.
In Barcelona we stayed at the Comfortel hotel near the Port Olympique are about 50 meters from the Pablenou Ramblas (not THE Ramblas) a quaint safe area 4 blocks from each of two tube stations and bought day passes for the tube and used the "hop on hop off" busses for orientation on the first day. The hotel cost us usd 400 for the weekend. Fabulous roomy modern hotel with a free mini bar stocked every morning. It included 2 beers cokes water and fruit juices. This choice saved us hundreds of dollars. As I run almost every day I was able to run down the ramblas to the beach area which has a magical promenade and restaurants.
I recommend that you don't take the cruise arranged tours. They are expensive and restrictive. You have a "we have the power" person with a stick with a Princess lines logo and every time they raise the stick, everyone rushes at (or after them) like lemmings looking for a cliff to jump off. We took one (and only one, never to be repeated) tour to Pisa at Livorno. It was expensive and restrictive. The guides are local and supposed to speak English. She sort of spoka da engleesh. She was boring repetitive every time we moved 10 meters she repeated the same historic facts as though we were somehow magically transformed into another group that she had never met before! She told us the best spot for the "tourista pushing the tower shots" and as we moved on kept pointing us back to that spot.
A fellow tourist who turned out to be a professor from Harvard laconically remarked that between he and I we probably earned more in hour our guide did in a month, wondered why she addressed us as if we were a crowd of village idiots?
We then chose to explore on our own using the local bus and tube train combinations. We were at leisure, on our own time spans, with an obligation to return the ship by sailing time.
We had numerous options for dining on the ship. We chose formal any time dining. This meant we could eat any time between 6pm and 10pm in a formal restaurant environment (choice of two Da Vinci or Michelangelo). Another option was formal fixed time same table same waiter same dinner companions every night in the Botticelli dining room. We were warned by experienced cruisers that this option could be restrictive (fixed time) and potentially deadly (same boring companions for 12 days - no escape. There were also two buffet restaurants called the Horison and Club Caribe. The Horizon was a regular buffet while Cub Caribe had "themed" meals like Japanese, Chinese, Indian Curries and so forth.
The meals we had were sumptuous, 5 courses each with 3 choices (or all if you were so inclined and capable. A different menu was available every evening. We also opted for the formal breakfasts most mornings and chose the buffet option when needed to make an earlier or later than usual start.
Over and above these dining options there were two specialty restaurants where for an nominal fee you could go to a special steak and lobster restaurant or an Italian restaurant, Sabbatini's.
On our cruise there were two formal evenings. The one was the Captains cocktail party evening and the other was the last night at sea where the champagne fountain was done.
He dinner on these evenings in the formal dining areas was fantastic. The last night the entrees were lobster tails, king Prawns, Pheasant and beef Wellington. Now get this the waiters deshelled the Lobster and prawn for you (what great service!!).
This ship had a golf simulator, a mini golf course, 5 swimming pools, A spa, a sort of zen quiet area (a nominal fee applied here, after you gotta pay for tranquility).
There were many bars, sushi bar, wine bar, piano bar, A fusion entertainment area, with square dancing, karaoke, dance contests, a disco on the 20th floor at the rear of the boat.
There was also a piano bar, a bar called the Wheelhouse (our favorite which featured a great Rumanian singer, who really rocked our boat and we got to know the crowd that frequented that venue and enjoyed great music and dancing.
They have a thousand seat Theater with lighting, sound and stage management equipment rivaling some of the best theatres that I have been in. They present two shows a night from variety to singers, comedians.
Every day they had a lecture giving information on the next port to be visited. This was recorded and available on TV (in house channel if you missed it). The cruise director was always visible and available. They present an early morning onboard TV program called Wakey Wakey with on board scandal, news, weather and highlighting the days events. For us this became a not to missed early morning wake up.
The last day.
We sailed into Venice in the mid morning. We all went to the 15 and 16 th floor deck areas and the gust lecture talked us into Venice as we sailed into the grand Canal to accompaniment of Italian arias, drinking champagne (paid for of course) , tears streaming down our faces to the end of this magnificent Cruise.
There was a downside, of course here is a downside. All transport to and from the harbor to the nearest drop of point in the port town cost USD 15 for the return trip. Drinks on the ship are costly, a beer was USD 7, but so was a cocktail, a bottle of wine starts at USD 24. Minerals and mineral water was additional cost. Regular water with ice was free. Other than regular coffee, other coffees were chargeable. We bought a soda card (unlimited sodas) for about USD 20 as well as a specialty coffee card which bought 24 Cappuccinos or similar coffees. A daily fee of USD 10.50 per person (including kids) is added to your bill so that you don't have to "worry about tips" at the end of he cruise. All the artists try to sell their CDs to you after he shows. There is continuous taking of photo's, as you board, as you leave for a port visit, at the dinners, at the formal evenings etc etc. These photos are displayed in the photo gallery and of course you can't resist some of them. But at USD 15 per photo, believe me you learn to resist and become pretty picky.
With all the souvenirs goods etc you buy you pretty much will need an additional carry bag for going home (unless you can afford to pay excess baggage.
This was an absolutely fabulous holiday. The ability to unpack on arrival and repack on departure with a luxurious apartment to stay in was a plus. You don't hassle with passports on arrival you are issued with a cruise card (which you guarantee with your credit card), this becomes your charge card, cabin key and passport to get on and off the ship.
Man this is the only wa to see the world and I have seen plenty before this trip.